The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received 9 p.m.]
2381. My 2380 May 5. General de Gaulle spoke in very pessimistic terms about the Russian advance in Europe. He said that in his opinion it is very possible that Russia will take over the entire continent of Europe in due course and in due time. (He was obviously very discouraged over the Communist showing in the recent municipal elections and of the pressure Moscow has been putting on him in relation to the Lublin Poles, Vienna et cetera.) He said that after the war there would be only two real forces in the world: The USA and the Soviets. He then said “I would much rather work with the USA than any other country. The British Empire will not be strong enough after this war to count for much. If I cannot work with you I must work with the Soviets in order to survive even if it is only for a while and even if in the long run they gobble us up too.” He then recited a list of grievances against us: Our alleged failures to supply coal, raw materials to get the factories going again, various other supplies “as frequently promised”; our failure to furnish armament except on a limited scale to the French Army; he went all over again the old story about his not being at Yalta; how France has been left out of this and that conference or committee. He repeated what he has said before “your people seem to think that France to [is?] going to fall in any event and perhaps you are right; but she would not fall if you helped her.”
He was very critical of the British in regard to Syria and said “you are protesting too about our sending a few troops to Syria while the British are moving a whole division into Syria from Palestine for ‘maneuvers’. Will the British move out of Syria if we do?”
He then spoke at great length about the coal situation alleging that plenty of coal could be brought out of Germany but that we are not doing it; that when he offered the use of French technicians who have already had experience in the Saar mines his offer was refused, etc. He said “our people will not tolerate this coal situation any longer and they certainly will not face a winter like last winter. Everyone even the Belgians have some heat. I myself had no heat last winter in this building.”
I made appropriate replies to all these remarks and told him that he as well as other French officials often made things very difficult for us. “When we try to help you” I said, “sometimes you act as if you did not want to be helped”.[Page 687]
I assured him of President Truman’s entire goodwill for France. I said also our policy toward France is very simple: it is our real interest to see France stand on her own feet again. “My Government as well as our people want to see France completely independent, strong and prosperous. We want to see you prosperous again for a variety of reasons among others the practical one of our desire to export and we cannot export if you are not prosperous enough to buy”.
At the same time, I took occasion to mention we had furnished armament for French divisions and that we had been furnishing supplies of all kinds to those divisions and we are still doing so.
Before leaving I repeated “we do want to help but don’t create difficulties for us” and I mentioned Stuttgart again.
This conversation was very informal and in the friendliest tone.
In fact (although this may sound a silly thing to say) when I left instead of saying goodbye at the door as he has always done before he accompanied me through several rooms to the place where I had left my hat and coat.56a
- At a meeting of the Committee of Three (with Secretary of War Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Forrestal) Acting Secretary Grew on May 8 presented Mr. Caffery’s report of this conversation and “emphasized the necessity of proceeding cautiously during this break-up period of the war.” Mr. Forrestal “agreed but also expressed the view that if the Soviet was not really going to cooperate with Great Britain and the United States it would be well for the United States to know this now. The opinion was expressed that it might be advisable at some time to state publicly the details of the action already taken by the Soviet in Poland and Romania”. (740.00119 Control (Italy)/5–845) For another excerpt from the minutes of this meeting, see p. 1145.↩